Thursday, June 11, 2009

Backyard Doves ... or Feeding the Pigs

Okay, I need some advice from my more experienced birder friends. Or perhaps I should say my more experienced bird feeding friends.

We finally got our first set of bird feeders set up in the back yard about a month or so back. For the first couple of days, we got a few visitors: a pair of cardinals, a sparrow or two, a smattering of chickadees and a handful of blue jays. And then the pigs moved in.

White-winged Dove - 5/13/2009
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

From what I've read, White-winged Doves were until recently pretty rare in Texas north of the Rio Grand Valley region. In fact, as I have previously mentioned, they do not even appear in either of my Texas-specific birding guides. However, over the past ten years or so they have quickly moved into the Lone Star state in a big way, becoming regular visitors and even breeders in many parts of the state. And not only have they become a common sight in the Houston area, they are quickly taking over our neighborhood!

For the past four weeks, our feeders have been hosting White-winged Doves almost exclusively. And while they are beautiful birds, they are driving away all the other neighborhood birds from our yard. Within minutes of my filling the feeder, they converge on our back yard. One morning, I looked out the kitchen window and counted nineteen of them (plus one lone Mourning Dove) in our tiny little back yard, with four or five perched on the feeder and trays, a couple more on the surrounding arms, four standing sentry duty on the back fence and the rest looking for scraps on the ground directly below the feeder. And while nineteen is rare, an even dozen at a time has become fairly common. By the time they leave the yard, the feeder has usually been emptied and the cupboard is bare. (Now I know how the owners of the local "all you can eat" Chinese food restaurant feel when all the guys from our office descend on their buffet at once.)

We are currently using a seed mixture recommended by our local Wild Birds Unlimited store manager that is intended to draw in a "nice variety of clinging and perching birds." Unfortunately, the White-winged pigs are driving that nice variety away. According to the bag, the mixture consists of black oil sunflower, sunflower chips, shelled peanuts, safflower and stripe sunflower seeds.

Can anyone recommend a different seed mixture that would attract the other area birds and yet not be quite so appealing to the doves? Or offer any other suggestions that might deter them from their gorge-fest? Any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated!


Larry Jordan said...

Hey Kyle, it sounds like you have a little problem there with the White-winged Doves, but I'm sure there is a solution.

I imagine the doves are feeding out of a tray feeder. Do you have other types of feeders as well? I suggest a sunflower seed tube feeder (I use some with cages and some without) and maybe a "clinger only" feeder.

The doves won't be able to perch on the tube feeder (as long as it does not have a tray attached) nor the clinger only feeders.

If you have room in your yard, set your tray feeder as far as possible from the other feeders so the smaller birds can feed in peace.

A caged feeder will also allow smaller birds to eat without being harassed by larger birds.

The other thing you can do is to put only a general mixed bird seed made up mostly of milo and millet with a few sunflower seeds, in your tray feeder. The sparrows and other seed eating birds will feed there as well as the doves.

The other thing I do is keep my sunflower seed feeders and woodpecker feeders full and only put seed in my tray feeder occasionally.

If you keep filling up the tray feeder all the time, it sounds like those doves will eat you out of house and home!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Ditto what Larry said.

Susan said...

Dear brother,
I have a cat you can borrow. :) Your birder friends are gonna get me for this one!!

Anonymous said...

My family in Ohio has the same issues with Mourning Doves. Calling them pigs is kind from what I have heard them called. All of my doves are ground feeders so the tray thing makes sense.

The Early Birder said...

Kyle. Larry has provided sound advice. We use 'caged' squirrel proof feeders over here to deter the larger birds (plus pigeons & doves)from raiding the feed.

gwendolen said...

Hope the tips help, Kyle. Maybe put White-winged doves on the menu in the meantime.

Did I just say that? *shocked

Kelly said...

...ditto Larry as well. Good luck! We have the same problem with Starlings.....they are relentless. (Raccoons too!)

Kyle said...

Larry, et al- Thanks for the tips and suggestions. I'll definitely give it a try. We've got a pretty small backyard and only one decent place to put feeders right now, but I can try hanging a tube or caged feeder off one of the pole arms.

Susan- (with tongue planted firmly between lips) Ppbbbbrrrpprttt! ;-D